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Chapter Eighteen
YEARS   OF  WANDERINGS

TF Su Tungpo's fate in the next twenty months is indicative of an
* official's lack of freedom of personal movement, it should be a power-
ful argument against any scholar's joining politics who can make a
living otherwise. He was now to follow a zigzag course of wanderings
and changes of plan before he ended up, much against his wish, in a
position very close to the Empress. The Emperor wanted to make him
the court historian, but was blocked by those around him. Finally he
Banded out a personal note in his own handwriting, shifting Su
Tungpo*s place of confinement from Huangchow to Juchow (modern
linju), which was very much nearer the capital and was a good city
in which to live. This news broke in on him at the beginning of March
in 1084.                                                                                           ,

He dodged the appointment, in his own words, "like a schoolboy try-
ing to play hookey". A man joins a government for money or fame or
power or service to the country. Su Tungpo, we know well enough,
was not the type to get rich by being an official, and as for power, he
Ij/S no desire whatever to rule others. There is a curious instinct in
/^:ie men who already have money and fame to enter politics just to
, sh other people around. The first taste of power is fine, but, barring
Exceptional circumstances, an American president who runs for a
second term either does not know what is for his own good or, more
probably, is no longer his own master. He runs because his party wants
him to run. The zeal for service to one's country is scarcely reasonable,
for are there not many opponents crying for a chance to do just that?
As for fame, Su had sense enough to know that even being a premier
could not possibly add anything to his immortal fame as a writer and a
poet. What could he want in politics, and what could he accomplish,
anyway?

On March 3 he was still having an unsuspecting good time with his
friends. They spent the day *at Shang's garden on the mountain-side
behind Tinghueiyuan, where Su Tungpo had a beautiful nap on top of
a small tower after a wine dinner. After the nap he strolled outside the
East Gate, where he saw in a shop a big wooden basin, which he bought,
intending to use it for watering his melons. Then, following a small
creek, he entered Ho's garden. Ho was just starting to build another
wing to his house, and asked him to stay for a drink in the bamboo
grove. A friend produced a kind of pastry which Tungpo aptly named
"Why-So-Crisp?" They all drank, but the monk Tsanliao took only
date soup. Suddenly, Su felt he wanted to go home. Seeing that there

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